Friday, September 19, 2014

Last minute holiday in Scotland: Pickletillum

This was our last full day in St Andrews, tomorrow we would be heading for home and the Flatlands. We did have a trip to Morrisons lined up, which was also an opportunity to replenish my stocks of Thistly Cross cider.

The observant of you, well the observant and “bothered to read the words and look at the pictures” in my recent posts will have heard me mention that my Brompton bicycle had joined us on the trip.  Yet I havnae really mentioned any cycling – well fear not – I went out for a spin on my wee bicycle and jolly pleasant it was too.

Although St Andrews is an old and ancient place and the University occupies many old buildings there are a bunch of pretty new University buildings as well. You see the new “site” as you come in from Dundee.  It  happens to be near the long-term car parks which is one of the reasons I took some pictures. Here is the School of Medicine.

If you look closely you might also be able to see a camper van. There were a few visitors parked in the long-term car-park overnight, including camper vans and caravans.

St Andrews – School of Medicine

This is the Gateway Building with various facilities including the Gateway Galleries and conferencing.

Gateway Building – St Andrews

I hadn’t realised it, but St Andrews also has a Blackadder Hall – well Agnes Blackadder Hall.

After checking my car and taking pictures I headed back to the hotel. Although I did record evidence of a water leak along the road.  The tower is part of John Burnet Hall another of the St Andrews University residences.

Water Leak and John Burnet Hall

So what is a “Wynd” – do you remember? (previous post.)

Grannie Clarks Wynd, well known in golfing circles apparently because it bisects the first and eighteenth fairways of the Old Course.  Apparently the Clarks had a cottage on the communal drying green where the locals dried their laundry and from 1830 to 1960 Grannie Clarke supervised the activity.

Grannie Clarks Wynd

The Old Sea Swimming Pool – St Andrews – looking very calm

St Andrews Town Centre

We visited Morrisons and whilst some other stuff might have been bought I also purchased 12 bottles of Thistly Cross Cider – so I would be able to have one a month. We also bought some sandwiches for lunch. My wife and daughter were planning to go swimming and I was going to go cycling.

When I got to the car I first moved it up to park along the Scores.  It is a bit of a squeeze, but it was easier to get changed in the hotel and then nip out to my car and get my bike. I took my sandwiches with me.

I haven’t used my Brompton for a wee while and it took me a moment to work out how to un-fold it and clamp it together. But it is a bit like riding a bicycle – once you can, you don’t forget.

Brompton’s are very versatile and convenient bicycles, but two things worried me a little. My touring bike has 27 gears, my Brompton has only 6, would I be able to deal with the hills. Secondly the small wheels on the Brompton can make the steering a bit skittish. Some of the roads I would be cycling along are A-roads but not very wide and with quite a few bends. Whenever I have driven along them I have not seen many cyclists – would the motorists give me space?

Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained. So I set off purposefully down the first hill not wobbling at all – well perhaps a little. What was that strange plunking noise coming from my back wheel? Unfortunately one of the spokes was broken.  The wheels are quite small and I wasn’t planning on going too far so I decided that having come this far I would chance it and still go for a ride. So I stopped, carefully removed it and carried on.

In the end I rode just a little over 20 miles and it was delightful.  For around half the way there was an off-road cycle path. However the courtesy I’d seen shown by drivers in the Highlands extended to the same courtesy being shown to cyclists in the Kingdom of Fife.  Or maybe they saw me wobbling and thought I was best given a wide berth.

Here is a Satellite view of my ride. I first cycled from St Andrews through Guardbridge and Leuchars to Pickletillum (and beyond). Then, when I got back to St Andrews I cycled along the beach road and I ate my lunch sitting on the sea front.

Satellite view of my Ride


The first bit from St Andrews was a shared-use path separated from the road along a Sustrans route – NCN 1. This is along the same route I cycled when I rode from Hull to Cambridge.  It connects Dover to the Shetland Islands via the eastern coasts of England and Scotland.  Although I turned off at Leuchars. I only had the afternoon to spare and figured I might be a bit late back if I carried on to the Shetlands.

Approaching Guardbridge the route follows a shared-use pavement.

Near Guardbridge on NCN1, with my Brompton

The village gets its name from the 15th Century six-arched bridge built by Bishop Henry Wardlaw, who founded the University of St Andrews.  The river crossed is the River Eden. Although it is tempting to believe that the name derives from the village that Guards the bridge, which is what I assumed that isn’t the case. Gaire means a triangular piece of ground in Gaelic and probably refers to the course of the Eden.

You might think that this is a picture of that 15th Century bridge – in a state of disrepair.  It is the course of the East Fife Railway Line that use to go through St Andrews, but was cut by Beeching. The railway viaduct was demolished – but the bridge piers remain.  There is some activity supporting the reinstatement of the railway link.

Further down the river you can see what was once a paper Mill, and is now Eden Brewery.   The buildings and land are owned by the University of St Andrews. The University is reported to have plans to turn the site into a biomass power generation plant (and Sustainable research and teaching centre). Hot water would be piped the four miles to St Andrews.

The remains of the railway bridge over the River Eden. Guardbridge

The NCN1 route takes to the backstreets of Guardbridge before crossing the road and heading towards Leuchars.  The second most northerly air defence station in the UK. In its role as a rapid response air base sometimes planes (Typhoons) will go supersonic over land, when they have to get somewhere quickly. However in late-breaking news and not long after we left St Andrews those typhoons moved to RAF Lossiemouth. The Army will take over the base in 2015.  Although RAF Leuchars is also in the running to be a spaceport.

A Wee Dovecot off the A919

One of the reasons that the cycling was actually easy despite the measly six gears on my Brompton was because the hills weren’t that hilly – I think the maximum height I reached was around 40m.  Even the flatlands around Cambridge can get higher than that.

It wasnae long before I reached the wee village of Pickletillum. There is more to it that it seems though. With a development of houses hidden to the right in an area known as Craigie Hill.


Pickletillum is roughly halfway between Dundee and St Andrews. When we first came up here we all found the name remarkably difficult to remember.  As it happens the OS map calls it “Pickletillem”. I have wanted to take a picture of the place (name) ever since.  However blink and you miss it. I have kept meaning to park in the Pickletillum Inn car park, but never gotten around to it. The Inn is an historic drover’s inn dating back to 1732. It was the last stagecoach stop en route between Edinburgh and the ferry from Newport to Dundee.

A two-bedroom cottage on the road would cost around £170,000, whereas on Craigie Hill a four bedroom place goes for £350,000 to £450,000.

If Pickletillum tickles your fancy you can also buy a book called “The Siege of Pickletillum”.

The Pickletillum Inn – Pickletillum

Just up the road from Pickletillum you can see a chapel peeping through the trees. It is the Lady Leng Memorial Chapel in Vicarsford Cemetery.  The building was commissioned by Sir John Leng as a memorial to his wife and built in 1895. Here are some more pictures and if you want a fine-art print look here.

Lady Leng Memorial Chapel

If I done any planning I should have cycled past the chapel and then on to Tayport and through the woods back Leuchars on NCN1.  It would have been around the coast.  That will have to be a ride I take in the future.

I took the easy option and cycled back the way I came, well more or less. I did detour through Leuchars which turned out to be a village and an RAF “garrison” spliced together. I can see why there is concern about the RAF leaving.

I also stopped in Guardbridge to take a picture of the Mill.

Guardbridge Mill

Back at Guardbridge bridge – well signed


Absent Viaduct – Guardbridge Bridge over the River Eden – rain in the clouds?

At this point I did wonder whether my luck had run out – the clouds were gathering and I felt one of two drops of rain. (To be fair I had checked the forecast and they were predicted.)

Raining on the River Eden

Fortunately it all blew over and no more than 20 drops fell on me. On my way back along the segregated cycle/pedestrian path between Guardbridge and St Andrews there were hoards of people. There had been a Vintage Agricultural Machinery Club rally at Guardbridge and quite a few people had chosen to walk the round trip of 8 miles between St Andrews and Guardbridge it seems.  It was a good job I had a bell on my Brompton.

This isn’t some sort of sustainable atomic bomb proof jet fighter shelter, well I don’t think it is. It is a Green Roof solution for barrel roof at the world famous St Andrews Links Golf Club (sic). it looks like TM Roofing Ltd did the roofing.

Green Roofing

It was such a lovely day and I was enjoying my cycling and had gotten my wobbling under control so I headed down past the West Sands on West Sands Road (there’s a coincidence). I didn’t quite know where it went. I could have checked my SatNav (on my bicycle) but that would have been cheating. Sometimes you just have to explore. It went to the end and back again as it happens.

West Sands, Looking back at St Andrews

West Sands, looking North (way from St Andrews)

St Andrews

The ruins of St Andrew’s Cathedral

It was glorious and I decided I’d better have my lunch or there wouldn’t be any time to fit supper in! I have mentioned a few times how welcoming I have found Scotland what with seeing my name up on signs, courteous driving and such. Well such is the welcome I have received that they have even put my name on bottles of diet coke – how nice is that.

Not Diet Coke – James’ Coke

There is a fair old bit of beach at St Andrews looking out on St Andrew’s bay.

West Sands – St Andrews

The first time we were up this way that red sandstone building was being renovated – or rather converted into flats, that’s all done now. Our hotel is the building to the left – The Scores Hotel. I don’t think we will be getting one of the flats though. Apparently in May 2012 the penthouse flat was up for £7.3m – at the time Scotland’s most expensive flat. Who wants views of a golf course? It is the Hamilton Grand. Price on application.

The Scores Hotel

After dinner, somewhere in St Andrews we had a stroll. There’s that Sea Swimming pool again. Look how clear the water is.

The Old Sea Swimming Pool – St Andrews – still looking very calm

The view from the front of the hotel – shame about the golf course spoiling the view.

The View from the Scores Hotel

We could hear the skirl of the pipes.  Something was taking place.

The Wonderful Grass of St Andrews

The next day were were off, however as is often the case when we visit this part of Scotland  the weather was wonderful.  Even at 7am the skies were blue. Our room was at the back of the hotel. Apparently the hotel did have a small amount of parking at the back (12 spaces) – through a small archway. However there was no way through to the hotel from the car parking area apart from around the front apparently?

The Scores Hotel – the view out the back

I think that the tower is St Salvator’s Chapel

There was time for a last stroll around St Andrews. Now in most of the UK it seems that butchers struggle to keep going with the supermarket onslaught. Minick of St Andrews only opened two years ago and are expanding.  Here is their Facebook page with a few more pictures.

Judging by the state of the bicycle chain I don’t think they really do deliveries by bicycle though.

Minick of St Andrews

We waited until some shops had opened and bought a couple more postcards and some mugs and my wife bought a cushion. We sat in the sun whilst waiting for Bonkers to open.

Near where we were sitting was this plaque to Dr John Adamson. He was a Physician and Pioneer Photographer.

Plaque Commemorating Dr John Adamsom – 1809-1870

This is the view from where we were sitting – Market Street – it was lovely and warm, we could have sat there a lot longer. But we had a long drive ahead.

Sunny Market Street – St Andrews

We strolled back to the hotel to check out and drive off. There was time for one last picture. Yes you did read that right, one last picture. It is a view of the hills behind the West Sands.

The Hills behind the West Sands – St Andrews

It was very pleasant when we set off although Edinburgh seemed busy and I think we probably need to teach the SatNav better ways around the city rather than through the middle (the A720 would take us around). 

Somewhere near Berwick we stopped at a Morrisons for some picnic fayre and then tried to find a place to pull off the road with views of the sea. No such luck after driving past loads of lay-bys without a view, we were getting hungrier and hungrier.  So we stopped in one by the very side of the road. Whenever lorries went past the car rocked. The food was good though – fresh salad and a scotch pie with curry chicken filling (for me). The views out to sea were good on the road generally, we could see Holy Island/Lindisfarne, except where we stopped for our lunch.

Then we headed off towards Newcastle, but as we got closer to the bit where the M1 splits of from the A1 the overhead signs reported that the A1 was closed somewhere down the road. But they don’t really give you a lot of information. So we turned off the A1 and onto the M1 – just in case.  I am not sure it was a good idea, the M1 seemed to consist of intermittent roadworks for several hundred miles. However there really was some sort of problem on the A1, although we think it was an accident on the northbound carriageway which then caused problems on the southbound carriageway.

We did get home, the M1 cleared up by the time we reached Leicester. It turned out that we drove around 2,000 on our tour up to and around Scotland. I felt every one of those miles after the problems of getting back. It will be good to hang up the car keys are do a lot more cycling again. As we neared Cambridge the M11 was also reported as closed. Not that we were going to be using it. A police motorcyclists had been injured when trying to stop a car.

The End (of the hols posting)


  1. it's amazing how far a Brompton can take you.

  2. It is, is a great example of that.